Is Ghostwriting Op-Eds an Unethical Practice for Freelance Writers?

Opinion pieces have long been an esteemed venue that showcases the voice of experts and a ideas of activists within the pages of a newspaper. But how would your own opinion of the Op-Ed section change if you knew that these pieces were not written by the the names on the byline? In a piece for The Guardian, journalist Dan Gillmor opines for the op-ed page, and the practice of hiring ghostwriters to pen pieces under famous names.

He refers to “bylined opinion pieces that are quite obviously not written by the supposed authors. Op-ed pieces that run under the bylines of famous politicians, celebrities and business people are almost never written by those people, just as they rarely author their autobiographies. They don’t have time. Their staffers and PR people, or paid ghostwriters and content writers in the case of books, do the research and writing for them.”

Gillmor looks to place blame on publications for the unchecked use of ghostwritten materials.

Unfortunately, newspapers often don’t check to see if their op-ed contributors are shading the truth or lying outright. The evidence is clear that some editorial page editors don’t believe it’s their responsibility to vet for accuracy and truth what they publish, unless the material comes from their own staff – and, of course, even that doesn’t guarantee veracity.

What do you think of ghostwritten op-ed pieces? Are they unethical? Many freelance writers ghostwrite for a living, but are there certain ghostwriting gigs you just wouldn’t take? Let us know in the comments.

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